Document Directory

09 Aug 99 - CJD - Fertility jab linked to BSE epidemic
08 Aug 99 - CJD - Major and Thatcher reject any blame for crisis
08 Aug 99 - CJD - Risk of BSE in vaccines revealed
06 Aug 99 - CJD - French block beef transport
05 Aug 99 - CJD - EU powerless over Germany's ban on beef
05 Aug 99 - CJD - British beef still banned by Germany
04 Aug 99 - CJD - New EU blow to beef exports
04 Aug 99 - CJD - Britain lodges complaint with Euro commission
03 Aug 99 - CJD - Germany refuses to lift beef blockade
03 Aug 99 - CJD - CJD fears drove man to suicide
02 Aug 99 - CJD - BSE tests are ignored by the beef industry
23 Jul 99 - CJD - Warning of major CJD epidemic
15 Jul 99 - CJD - Industry's 3 years in limbo
15 Jul 99 - CJD - Tough conditions on lifting of beef ban
25 Jun 99 - CJD - Red wine seized by French in CJD alert
03 Jun 99 - CJD - BSE evidence may be kept secret
02 Jun 99 - CJD - US bans blood donors from Britain
30 May 99 - CJD - Children exposed to CJD infection risk from vaccines

09 Aug 99 - CJD - Fertility jab linked to BSE epidemic

James Meikle

Guardian ... Monday 9 August 1999

The BSE epidemic may have been started by fertility treatments for cattle that went wrong , according to a theory being investigated by the inquiry into the catastrophe.

The injection of hormones taken from the pituitary glands of slaughtered cows to improve breeding may have helped to spread the agent carrying mad cow disease before the death toll was further accelerated by the now outlawed practice of feeding the remains of dead sheep and cows to livestock .

The theory was outlined by Anne Maddocks, a retired medical scientist who specialised in infection control and was a leader of the campaign that persuaded Tony Blair to establish the inquiry. She pointed to the parallels with cases of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease among people who had been treated with human growth hormone from donors unknowingly suffering from the fatal brain condition.

Nearly 2,000 British children were treated in this way between 1959 and 1985, when such treatment was stopped.

The idea that cattle growth hormones were a factor in the BSE epidemic was briefly investigated by government officials more than 10 years ago, and is being treated seriously again by the £20m inquiry.

Chaired by Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, it is looking at how the crisis was handled by the then Conservative government between the discovery of the fatal cattle disease in late 1986 and the admission in 1996 of an apparent link to a similar condition in humans through eating infected beef.

Forty-three people have so far died from variant CJD. The crisis brought about the ban on beef export that was lifted only this month and cost the British and European taxpayer £4bn.

Dr Maddocks argued that a cow whose pituitary was used for the hormone treatment may have had a sporadic version of the brain disease that became know as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, and the infection was there fore spread among other cattle in several parts of the country before the "cannibalism" through feed became a factor .

In written evidence to the inquiry, she suggested that the problem was caused not by hormonal action but by the fact that the pituitary gland was effectively part of the brain, where lay the highest concentration of the agent thought to be linked to BSE.

The possible significance of the two hormone-related infections in the mid-1980s was obscured because the human CJD was seen as "a disease with a known origin", she suggested. "BSE, on the other hand, was portrayed a 'mystery disease' which baffled scientists."

The hormone theory in cattle was discounted because surveys of BSE-infected herds in 1987 did not suggest that hormones were a common factor. But Dr Maddocks said the recycling through feed may by then have hidden the primary cause of the epidemic, but there did not seem to have been any reappraisal of the idea afterwards.

The inquiry, which began in March last year, has annoyed some witnesses because of the amount of work they need to do in preparing evidence.

Lord Phillips warned at the outset that it was unlikely to "prove" one theory over another.

Among other theories that the inquiry is considering are that BSE was originally transferred from scrapie in sheep , that changes in rendering down carcasses into meat and bone meal for feed meant that the BSE agent from an original cow with a sporadic disease was not destroyed and the disease rapidly spread, that it was caused by a reaction to microbes or organophosphate treatments , and that it was spread by vaccines .

There are also rivals to the theory that BSE spread to humans through food. The inquiry is looking at the use of beef products in human vaccines in the 1980s. Scientists are now checking the possibility that BSE has gone back into sheep .

08 Aug 99 - CJD - Major and Thatcher reject any blame for crisis

Patrick Wintour

Guardian ... Sunday 8 August 1999

Turf wars that raged in Whitehall as offal entered the food chain unchecked

John Major and Lady Thatcher have washed their hands of responsibility for the BSE crisis. The two former Conservative prime ministers have told the marathon inquiry into Britain's multi-billion pound food disaster that, even with hindsight, they would have done nothing differently.

Thatcher has insisted it would have been 'irresponsible and counter-productive to second guess the experts, even when one was aware that the data on which those experts was working was changing'.

Major has submitted a statement to the inquiry, chaired by Lord Justice Phillips, in which he insists that BSE had nothing to do with deregulation .

Both statements , and the denial of responsibility , are likely to be challenged by the inquiry when it reports next year.

The still largely unreported evidence and cross examination of 150 witnesses, and the scrutiny of tens of thousands of government papers, is revealing a vipers' nest of Whitehall disputes, buck-passing and vested interests . It is also becoming clear that scientists were dragooned into the front line of the propaganda battle over the safety of British beef.

In conflict with Major's denial, the former Chief Medical Office Sir Donald Acheson has claimed that the pressure to streamline government spending was 'almost continuous and took away much of my energy and intellectual resources'.

Environmental health officers have complained that they were not given the resources to police vital regulations passed in the early Nineties, including the ban on 'specified bovine offals' (SBOs). The failure to enforce these regulations is likely to dominate the inquiry.

Professor Pattison, chairman of SEAC, the government's senior scientific advisory body on the BSE crisis, told the inquiry: 'The situation would have been transformed if the regulations had been applied rigorously.'

One reason for the collapse of enforcement appears to be the rows and departmental turf wars that dominated the BSE crisis, especially between the Ministry of Agriculture and the Department of Health . Acheson has told the inquiry that the Ministry was 'unnecessarily secretive'. 'The eradication of BSE and food safety should have been interests held in common and fostered cooperation between us, yet it seemed a cause of tension,' he said.

According to Acheson the Agriculture Ministry saw its role as defender of producer interests .

The rivalry reached such a peak, the inquiry has revealed, that John Gummer, then Agriculture Secretary, implored the then Health Secretary Kenneth Clarke not to answer questions in parliament on food safety for fear it would expose policy divisions.

But the Department of Health also tried to fend off critics elsewhere in Whitehall. Dr Hilary Pickles, a senior medical officer at the department, complained in a letter copied to the Welsh Office: 'I am surprised you felt it necessary to put so much effort into challenging the views of colleagues at the Department of Health who are more senior, more experienced in the area, devote a higher proportion of their time to the topic and have frequent access to the experts in the field.'

Sir Kenneth Calman, the former Chief Medical Officer, has openly blamed the Agriculture Ministry for its attitude to the ban . 'Throughout the period in which the SBO ban was in force, concerns were continuously raised about its effective operation. But the Department of Health was always reassured at meetings of SEAC.'

Calman also laid into the farming industry . He said: 'I found the attitude of those with primary responsibility for implementation, namely the farming industry and the slaughterhouse owners and operator, astonishing.'

The attack from medical officers has led to a furious rebuttal from Kenneth Packer, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture. He has insisted his department implemented the regulations vigorously, but then blames local councils, saying they were primarily responsible for the regulations until a central Meat Hygiene Service was created by Ministers in1995.

But Packer does not appear to be supported by Nicholas Soames, the Junior Agriculture Minister between April 1992 and July 1994. Soames told the inquiry he had received a letter in March 1994 from Andrew Scott of ED&F Man Ltd claiming 'meat and bone meal from banned offal which is supposed to go into landfill is still finding its way into the food chain'.

Soames recalled: 'I was very surprised to receive this letter. This was the first time that I had heard such claims being made.' Soames asked his Private Secretary to send a letter to Packer seeking assurance that meat and bone meal from SBOs were not reaching the animal food chain. Soames received a reply from Keith Eddy, head of the Ministry's Animal Health (Disease Control) division, on 15 March saying 'Scott's letter was based on a confusion about the nature of SBOs.'

He went on: 'There have been allegations in the past that this has been happening, but local authorities are required to operate controls to prevent this and all the checks that we have done show these controls are working.' This proved to be a remark of supreme complacency.

Ten days later Alick Simmons of the Meat Hygiene section of the State Veterinary Service published a report on SBO disposal at rendering plants, saying significant amounts of SBOs could be finding their ways into animal feed . Ministry officials appear to have done little with this damning report. Soames told the inquiry he was not given a copy.

Environmental health officers have also claimed they were not given the resources or any lead from the Agriculture Ministry to implement the bans. So by 1995, as it became clear BSE could jump the species barrier and possibly affect humans, the government moved again to tighten on the SBO orders.

A series of spot checks belatedly showed the scale of law-breaking. Douglas Hogg, the Agriculture Secretary, told the inquiry that 65 per cent of the 400 slaughterhouses visited had not been complying with the SBO rules.

Yet even when these figures emerged, Eddy still tried to reassure Hogg that nothing serious was amiss. He wrote: 'Although the breaches of the BSE rules are highly unsatisfactory, consumers have no cause for alarm.'

Hogg nevertheless claims he blew his top with the slaughterhouse industry men. 'Once the scale of the breaches of the regulations became clear, I read them the riot act. I told them, "I am willing to prosecute. You will comply. I do not want any excuses." '

The Meat Hygiene Service belatedly revealed the full scale of the breaches . Some Cabinet Ministers, the inquiry has revealed, had opposed the service's establishment in principle, notably John Redwood, then Welsh Secretary, and Michael Portillo, the Chief Secretary.

Once news broke in March 1996 that a new variant of CJD had been discovered caused by BSE, there was nothing more the officials or the government could do. Dr Michael Painter, a SEAC member, described their dilemma: 'The public had been reassured and reassured and reassured and then suddenly we were saying, "Oh sorry, we have got a problem."

'It just went from nothing to full speed.'

08 Aug 99 - CJD - Risk of BSE in vaccines revealed

Jonathon Carr-Brown, Political Reporter

Times ... Sunday 8 August 1999

Four of Britain's most senior scientists downplayed the potential risk of the transmission of BSE to humans through vaccines to prevent a serious health scare.

They insist that the secret warnings they gave to medical experts to make vaccines from materials that came from non-BSE-infected cattle were not fully implemented.

New evidence given to Lord Phillips's BSE inquiry reveals that the BSE working group, set up in 1989 by Margaret Thatcher and led by Sir Richard Southwood, believed the risk of transfer through vaccines was "relatively high", not "remote" as its final report claimed.

The route by which BSE transfers to humans in the form of new-variant CJD is unknown. There is a possibility that one agent could be the thousands of vaccines used until 1993 that were made out of material likely to have come from infected cattle. The vaccines were used to treat diseases such as measles, rubella and tetanus.

In 1989, when knowledge of BSE was negligible, the Southwood report proved pivotal in the way other bodies overseeing medical products assessed the risk to the public. In particular, the Committee on Safety of Medicines cited the report when it decided not to destroy thousands of stockpiled vaccines made or cultured using bovine materials.

It calculated that a vaccine health scare could lead to the almost guaranteed death of 170 unvaccinated people, which had to be set against the "remote" risk of anyone contracting CJD through a vaccine.

But in a twist to the inquiry, Southwood , professor of zoology at Oxford University, and his former colleagues - Lord Walton , a leading clinical neurologist; Sir Anthony Epstein , a former head of the department of pathology at Bristol University; and Dr William Martin , a distinguished veterinarian - were recalled by Phillips to explain why their report "presented a misleading picture of the working party's views".

Southwood admitted his inquiry did not regard the risk as remote, but "relatively high" . Asked if he thought the risk from vaccines was greater than the risk of being infected after eating beef, Southwood replied: "Yes."

Yesterday Epstein de-fended the approach the Southwood inquiry took. "Those authorities were consulted in no uncertain terms," he said.

"If they choose to dis-regard all of the warnings they received and hide behind the word 'remote' what can we do?"

06 Aug 99 - CJD - French block beef transport

Valerie Elliott, Countryside Editor

Times ... Friday 6 August 1999

The French Government last night was blocking plans for Britain to transport beef destined for Belgium and Greece through its territory .

The Ministry of Agriculture and the Meat and Livestock Commission said they were infuriated by the latest protectionist ploy to prevent the British beef industry regaining its markets abroad.

Terry Lee, the commission's export marketing manager, said: "The French are being bloody-minded . We will now have to take British beef around northern Europe to get to Greece. It looks, too, as though they will not even allow transit through France into Belgium."

But in a boost to beef farmers it emerged yesterday that France and Germany are isolated over their stance. Mr Lee has received a report from the Foreign Office that confirmed that nearly every other country in Europe was ready to receive British beef, apart from the Dutch Government, which is awaiting the return from holidays of its chief vet but was not expecting a problem; and the Italians, who have pledged a return to British exports but need two to three weeks to organise the formalities.

The enthusiastic signal last night stepped up plans by the Commission to organise a celebration to mark the first British beef exports. The event is expected in Belgium after August 23 when Nick Brown, the Agriculture Minister, returns from holiday.

Mr Lee also triumphantly produced a letter from Claude Thieblemont, one of France's leading meat producers, who had been among the recent group of foreign meat importers invited to dine on organic beef with the Prince of Wales. M Thieblemont, general manager of Ovimpex Massicard, said: "The visit confirms myself in the good opinion I had of the British beef. You can be assured that I will make every effort to the success of the importations of British beef."

There was also support from Theo Wershoven, the German who represents more than 50,000 butchers in Europe, who last night described his kinsmen as "hysterical" in their reaction to British beef.


05 Aug 99 - CJD - Germans want extra safety tests on UK beef ban on beef may last all year

Staff Reporter

Independent ... Thursday 5 Auguat 1999

British beef may be banned from Germany until next year , on the orders of the all-powerful regional governments which earlier this week forced the national Health Minister to defy European Union rules.

Although Germany imported very little beef from Britain before the ban was imposed three years ago, a further delay would deal a severe blow to UK farmers because German stalling tactics are likely to be copied by other European countries. France's Farm minister, Jean Glavany, has already announced that Paris needed a month to sort out the new regulations.

Germany is looking at a longer time-span. A decision to lift the EU-wide ban on beef has to be approved by parliament's upper chamber, the Bundesrat, where the 16 Lander are represented. This body is currently on the move from Bonn to Berlin, and is not due to meet until 24 September.

Even when it does, the odds are stacked against the British beef industry. At a meeting on Tuesday between regional health ministers and Andrea Fischer, the federal Health Minister, it became clear that the Lander were against allowing British beef into their shops .

"There was a feeling that this decision by the European Commission came too soon," an official of Saxony's Health Ministry said.

"The majority of the Lander were opposed to lifting the ban."

Ms Fischer herself cannot start negotiations with Brussels until the new Commission is in place in October.

She wants added guarantees of safety, and insists on the testing of all British beef bound for export. This is already technically feasible, but the British authorities have so far refused to sanction the tests.

Such measures, Ms Fischer told the BBC yesterday, would benefit Britain, too, because they would boost confidence in a product that most Europeans continue to mistrust. "I think it's easier for the German authorities to explain to the people in Germany that British beef is now safe again if we have taken this second chance," she explained.

Ms Fischer is not politically disposed towards helping British agriculture. She belongs to the Greens, the party which spearheaded the campaign against British beef at the outset of the BSE crisis. Long before the European Union took its drastic decision, Green health ministers in the regions had already imposed unilateral bans.

At that time, they were strongly condemned by the Christian Democrat-led federal government, but such ideological rifts have since healed. The Christian Democrats were the first to applaud Ms Fischer's defiant stance. "Protecting citizens' health has a higher priority than free trade," the Christian Democrat spokesman, Peter Hintze, declared.

Consumers, though, have shown little indication that they care. The BSE crisis is long forgotten in Germany, the memories obliterated by more recent health cares.

Nevertheless, the regions continue to insist that "suspect" British beef be labelled as British. The new EU regulations on such labelling does not come into effect, however, until next January. Until then, an impasse looms.

05 Aug 99 - CJD - EU powerless over Germany's ban on beef

By David Brown, Agriculture Editor, and Toby Helm, EU Correspondent, in Brussels

Telegraph ... Thursday 5 Auguat 1999

Brussels admitted yesterday that it could not compel Germany to comply immediately with a European Union decision to lift the global ban on exports of British beef .

As farmers and politicians in Britain protested over this week's decision by German health ministers to continue a national blockade against British beef, the EU Commission said it had no legal powers to force Germany to comply in the short term.

The export ban on British beef was officially lifted on Sunday, after three-and-a-half years of exclusion from world markets. But Germany says it is still not satisfied that the meat is safe , and wants further reassurances about hygiene and health policies before opening its markets.

Martine Reicherts, a commission spokesman, said the EU executive would wait until the issue of whether to lift the beef ban had been debated in the German parliament in September. It was right to give the Germans "some time" to implement EU rules lifting the ban. But she refused to set any deadline after which the commission would step up the pressure.

The lack of a clear and robust response is partly the result of the fact that a new commission will come into place in September, replacing the remnants of the old team of Jacques Santer. Officials are reluctant to tie the new team to any particular policy line.

The British Government formally voiced its concerns to the commission yesterday over Germany's refusal to accept British beef. The Ministry of Agriculture said: "Our position remains the same. The commission has said British beef is safe. It is now for the Germans and the other EU governments to move towards lifting the ban."

France says it will be ready to allow in British beef from the end of this month. Most other EU countries are also willing to let it enter their markets. But it emerged yesterday that the Meat and Livestock Commission, which promotes British beef at home and abroad, was having problems with "red tape" in France, which could jeopardise plans to stage a triumphal return of British beef to Paris in two or three weeks' time.

The setbacks were being blamed on French government holidays and a shortage of appropriate officials to approve the consignments . Don Curry, chairman of the MLC, criticised "German intransigence" over British beef safety that "flies in the face of scientific evidence, European law and common sense".

He said: "The attitude of the German authorities clearly demonstrates they are unaware of the measures we have in Britain to protect consumer safety. Were the declarations of Germany in this regard to become policy, they would be illegal and, as such, we condemn them unreservedly."

The MLC had hoped to serve British beef at an international meat trade banquet in Germany in October. Farmers reacted with anger and frustration at the German stance. The National Farmers' Union has called on the EU Commission to act against Germany with "utmost urgency".

Tim Bennett, deputy president of the NFU of England and Wales, said: "There is absolutely no justification for any delay by the German authorities. British farmers have worked tirelessly, complying with the rigorous and stringent safety checks imposed on us by the EU Commission.

"We have done all this and more, only to be told that Germany is not satisfied. We are shaking our heads about what we could possibly do. We believe that the German authorities should give their consumers the right to try for themselves the high quality of British beef. If they refuse, we will be asking the commission to take all possible action, including legal redress."

German consumers, he said, needed no further reassurances. "Every European country has had the opportunity to come and look at the standards we have imposed on beef farmers since the EU beef export ban was imposed in March 1996."

Jim Walker, president of the NFU of Scotland, accused the Germans of "commercial protectionism which runs directly against the spirit of the European single market".

05 Aug 99 - CJD - British beef still banned by Germany

By David Brown, Agriculture Editor

Telegraph ... Thursday 5 Auguat 1999

Germany is to keep the ban on British beef in defiance of a European Union decision that it is safe to be sold worldwide.

In a move that provoked a threat of European Court action by Brussels, Andrea Fischer, the German health minister, said yesterday that the national ban would remain in place because EU regulations allowing British beef exports to resume were not strict enough. Further talks would be held with the European Commission in Brussels and the ban would remain in place until after the summer recess.

The German minister, a member of the Green Party, announced the decision after a meeting of health ministers from the 16 German federal states which agreed it was "too early" to lift the ban. The decision - only 48 hours after the EU's global export ban, imposed in March 1996, was lifted - shocked British farmers' leaders and provoked a frenzy of activity in the Ministry of Agriculture in Westminster.

The ministry said: "The export ban was imposed by the EU as an EU measure. Now it has been withdrawn as an EU measure we expect member states to comply with that decision." The European Commission immediately issued a warning that Germany faced legal action if it failed to comply with the decision, taken after tortuous negotiations, to resume free trade in British beef that meets strict health safeguards laid down by Brussels.

Martine Reicherts, the commission's chief spokesman, said: "If the conditions are fulfilled the Germans would have to allow the meat in. If they don't we will study starting an infringement procedure." An infringement procedure is the first step in a process that can lead to an EU member state facing action in the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice.

Mrs Reicherts said that British beef exports, although authorised, had yet to begin. No beef is expected to be shipped for at least a fortnight. She said Germany had not formally notified the commission of a decision to block British beef.

The move reinforced British farmers' suspicions that much opposition to their beef in Europe is politically motivated. There is a chronic over-supply of beef in western Europe where consumption is falling. But Germany - along with the other 14 EU members - is obliged to comply with European law.

The Meat and Livestock Commission, the official body that promotes British beef, said it believed that German opinion would eventually come round. Terry Lee, head of export marketing, said: "We would be surprised if the commission asked us to do any more. We suspect that, when other countries start buying British beef, so will the Germans." Germany had never bought much British beef anyway - only a few tons a year at the peak of the export trade. But its high-profile opposition has damaged the image of British beef in Europe.

Ann Widdecombe, the shadow home secretary, said the German decision was "quite outrageous". She said: "If these reports are proved to be true, the Germans are clearly acting in direct conflict with an EU-wide decision to lift the export ban on British beef. If the European Union is to operate properly, all countries within it must equally observe its directives and decisions."

A unanimous decision by the commission last month to lift its ban on British beef means that farmers have been allowed to export some of their beef since Sunday. But under the Date Based Export Scheme, they can only send deboned meat from cattle born after August 1996 - the date when a ban on feeding meat and bonemeal to animals became fully effective.

04 Aug 99 - CJD - New EU blow to beef exports

David Hencke, Westminster Correspondent

Guardian ... Wednesday 4 August 1999

Farmers celebrating the lifting of the ban on Britain's £520m beef export business this week are facing a fresh disaster - their cattle might never be sold abroad because European Union slaughter rules have made it "economic suicide " to open new abattoirs to restart the trade.

The disclosure came as Germany announced that it would continue to ban the import of British beef because of fears of BSE, even though this would be illegal under the deal lifting the restrictions.

The new setback for farmers comes after meat exporters examined the small print of the deal negotiated by Nick Brown, the agriculture minister, and the EU to lift the ban.

The rules require cattle to be slaughtered in abattoirs dedicated solely to export. They will have to be policed and supervised by teams of inspectors. Lorries used to export the beef will be banned from handling any other business.

The restrictions make it prohibitively expensive for meat exporters to open abattoirs. They fear the huge extra costs of running them plus the relatively few cattle eligible for export will drive them into the bankruptcy courts.

In Northern Ireland export of Ulster beef has ceased 12 months after the ban was lifted there precisely because of the same problem.

The rules also require strict traceability of the new animals - including guaranteed proof that the mother of the calf is alive six months after its birth. This rules out two out of every three steers coming to abattoirs for slaughter - and will not change significantly until next spring when the ministry of agriculture's computer records will only just begin to cope with supplying such information.

Meat exporters say only one new slaughterhouse - in St Merryn, Cornwall - is planning to handle beef exports in the whole of the United Kingdom. One abattoir in Scotland - already approved by the EU - has decided not to open because it would bankrupt its business. No other abattoir is planned to open in Scotland because of the huge running costs of the EU proposals and because 68% of Scottish cattle do not meet the traceability rules. The restrictions are particularly disastrous for Scotland, which was least affected by BSE and also still able to command an export market for prime Aberdeen Angus beef. They could not use the Cornish abattoir because the long lorry journeys would cause stress for the animals and might break regulations for transporting cattle.

Brian Pack, chief executive of the ANM group, which owns Scottish Premier Meat, the biggest beef exporter, said: "If we went ahead under the present regulations it would be economic suicide - not only for exports but for the domestic market. The losses would be so great on exports that it would undermine the viability of slaughtering animals for the domestic market."

He disclosed that one company, Buchan Meats, had received approval from the EU and the Scottish Office for the opening of a dedicated slaughterhouse to handle beef exports, but had abandoned the plan because it was not commercially viable.

Gerry Maguire, joint managing director of Linden Foods in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland, said yesterday: "We have now abandoned slaughtering beef from Northern Ireland despite the lifting of the ban last year. A computer glitch meant last year that 19 animals were wrongly exported without the proper authority. Our previous company, Granville Meats, was anyway only handling 80 carcasses a week and we made heavy losses. We are now handling beef from the Republic of Ireland which does not require such heavy regulation." The firm originally had a deal with a Dutch supermarket group to sell Ulster beef.

Last night the German health minister, Andrea Fischer, a member of the Green Party, said the domestic ban on British beef would be left in place until her government reconvened after the summer recess, and further discussions with the European Commission had taken place.

The British government said it believed the current regulations ensured British beef was the safest in the world.

Last night Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond MSP, expressed anger at the situation. "Within 48 hours of the lifting of the beef export ban, Scottish farmers have taken another blow, since they could be facing a further six-month delay before they can get their beef back on to world markets.

"Farmers should have been celebrating the lifting of this disastrous ban. Instead, further bureaucratic nonsense has delivered yet another setback for an already crippled industry."

04 Aug 99 - CJD - Britain lodges complaint with Euro commission

Mark Tran

Guardian ... Wednesday 4 August 1999

Britain today lodged a complaint with the European Commission over Germany's refusal to immediately comply with the EU decision to lift a three-year ban on British beef exports.

"If Germany is going to unduly delay lifting the ban, then there is no doubt that the commission has the power to take legal action against Germany and they have indicated the will do so," deputy agriculture minister Elliot Morley told the BBC.

Shadow home secretary Ann Widdecombe, calling the continuing German ban "outrageous," said "the Germans are clearly acting in direct conflict with an EU-wide decision to lift the export ban on British beef. If the European Union is to operate properly, all countries within it must equally observe its directives and decisions."

Liberal Democrat agriculture spokesman Charles Kennedy called the ban "unacceptable" and urged the government to do everything possible to bring Germany into line with the rest of the EU.

The commission this week lifted the global ban on British beef exports, imposed after an outbreak of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or "mad cow" disease. Medical researchers linked BSE to a new strain of the fatal human brain ailment, Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease.

Britain still faces huge difficulties in exporting beef again, both because of lingering suspicions in continental Europe about its safety and the hefty costs of meeting stringent new safety regulations. France has also said there will be a delay in allowing British beef back. Government officials maintain they have to modify legislation and scrutinise the new safety measures.

German Health Minister Andrea Fischer defended her country's delay as necessary to overcome distrust of British beef. Germany says it also is ensuring that Britain is imposing new safety regulations.

"At the moment, I think the German market is quite difficult for British beef because people maybe would not want to buy it," Ms. Fisher told the BBC.

Tim Bennett, deputy president of the British National Farmers' Union, said every EU country has had plenty of time to check up on the safety regulations and implement the lifting of the ban. "Quite frankly, we are angry and exasperated by this delay," he said.

Only one British slaughterhouse - at St Merryn, in Cornwall - is approved to handle exports because of the tough new safety requirements. The new rules require cattle to be killed in abattoirs dedicated solely to exports, supervised by teams of inspectors. The rules also require strict tracing of the animals' mothers.

Russia today followed in Germany's footsteps by announcing that it will not lift its ban on British beef imports because of lingering concern over mad cow disease.

"Scientists have not solved definitely the problem of this product's safety , so we have no intention of lifting the ban," Vyacheslav Avilov, head of the veterinary department at the food and agriculture ministry, told Reuters.

Mr Avilov said Russia heard of mad cow disease in Britain as early as 1987 and had imposed a ban on British beef in 1989. In 1991 and in 1996, authorities prevented two attempts to import the product so British beef has been kept out of Russia for 10 years.

03 Aug 99 - CJD - Germany refuses to lift beef blockade

By Imre Karacs in Berlin

Independent ... Tuesday 3 August 1999

Germany is on a collision course with the European Commission after refusing to lift its ban on the sale of British beef. The German Health Minister, Andrea Fischer, said her government believed it was too early to lift the ban and further talks would be held with Commission representatives.

Germany wants guarantees that all British beef exports are properly tested , to ensure that none is affected by BSE. Ms Fischer, a member of the Green party, pointed out that BSE has not been fully eradicated from the British herd, with 1,500 new cases detected in the first half of this year alone.

But last night the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food said new regulations made British beef the safest in the world. A spokesman said: "We are aware that the Germans have requested further talks so that they can move forward to lift the ban while continuing to protect the health and interests of German consumers.

"We welcome their willingness to talk about it. We never expected any of our European partners to overturn the bans in their countries in August. We also knew that some would take longer than others and that the Germans had concerns. They did vote against the lifting of the ban and we've never made an issue of that."

While Germany has not been a significant market for British beef, officials will not want any countries still voicing doubts about the product's safety. The Meat and Livestock Commission, which promotes British beef exports, said it believed German opinion would eventually come round. Terry Lee, the commission's head of export marketing, said: "We suspect that when other countries start buying British beef, so will the Germans."

The shadow Home Secretary, Ann Widdecombe, said: "If these reports are proved to be true, the Germans are clearly acting in direct conflict with an EU-wide decision to lift the export ban on British beef."

There had been signs even before yesterday's announcement that Germany was looking for ways to stall on the decision to lift the ban. It earlier claimed a need to have the new regime approved by its parliament's upper chamber, the Bundesrat, which does not meet until 24 September.

The delay now looks likely to be much longer, with discussions in Brussels due to begin in October. However, if Berlincontinues to resist, it is liable to face court proceedings.

"If the conditions are fulfilled [by the British], the Germans would have to allow the meat in," said a commission spokeswoman, Martine Reicherts. "If they don't, we will study starting an infringement procedure." The latter is the first step in a process that can result in an EU member state being tried in the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.

Observers assume that the German government will not let matters go that far.

Although regional governments, especially those where the Greens hold the environment portfolio, continue to resist British beef, the final decision rests with the federal government.

03 Aug 99 - CJD - CJD fears drove man to suicide

Staff Reporter

Telegraph ... Tuesday 3 August 1999

A man killed himself over his baseless fears that he was developing the human form of mad cow disease an inquest was told yesterday. David Isherwood, 42, was among the first 2,000 children in Britain to be given growth hormone treatment based on the pituitary glands of dead donors.

Eight years ago, staff at the Birmingham Children's Hospital, where he was treated as a teenager, contacted him to disclose his potential risk of contracting CJD. His mother, Olive, of Leigh, Greater Manchester, said yesterday: "At first he said he was not bothered, but it completely changed him. I am sure now he was terrified."

Martin Coppull, the Leigh coroner, recorded a verdict of suicide.

02 Aug 99 - CJD - BSE tests are ignored by the beef industry

By Charles Arthur Technology Editor

Independent ... Monday 2 August 1999

British beef not tested for BSE is exported

Tests which could identify cattle infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy after slaughter are being ignored, The Independent can reveal.

As the Agriculture minister, Elliot Morley, tucked into a steak yesterday during a barbecue to mark the lifting of the European Union's worldwide export ban on British beef, experts and relatives of victims of new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (v-CJD) expressed concern that the simple and readily available tests were not being used .

Although the number of BSE cases reported in Britain is more than 20 times higher than anywhere in the world, with 3,161 cases in 1998 and more than 1,040 so far this year, the EU has not required that beef for export to Europe be tested with any of three clinical tests validated by the European Commission (EC) .

The father of one victim of v-CJD, caused by BSE, said that the lack of testing left him "speechless". Roger Tomkins, whose daughter, Clare, died in1998, said: "If there is such a test, it's in everybody's interest to identify the animals incubating the disease and get them out of the way as soon as possible."

The tests would be used to identify cattle in slaughterhouses which have BSE but no symptoms. An analysis in 1996 showed that for every BSE case reported, there were about 40 sub-clinical cases which would go undetected into food.

The Meat and Livestock Commission (MLC), which lobbies on behalf of the meat industry, said the use of a test would help revive the export market, which was worth £500m annually before the Government announced a link between BSE and v-CJD in 1996. "Once we have a test that is as foolproof as possible, we would press for its wider use," said John Pratt, veterinary adviser to the MLC.

But a number of tests have been put through trials. The EC carried out an experiment last year in which four companies with tests were sent unidentified samples, some from animals showing BSE and others from New Zealand-born animals free of BSE. The results, published last month, showed that three of the companies - Enfer of Ireland, Prionics of Switzerland and CEA of France - scored 100 per cent in identifying both groups . Further tests with diluted solutions from the two groups were also carried out, with similar results: the Enfer test, which uses a system developed by Proteus International of Macclesfield and can be carried out in four hours, scored perfect marks with a solution diluted by a factor of 30.

Arthur Rushton, chief operating officer of Proteus International, said: "The question is, why aren't people taking this up? From the scientific point of view it's hard to say what more is needed. These tests work."

A spokesman for the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food said: "We are looking at possible diagnostic tests, but we need to look at them carefully before deciding how to use them. The test results are important, but are only one step."

Mr Pratt said: "The question is which tissues you should test for sub-clinical BSE - it seems to migrate from the gut to the nerves, to the spinal column and then to the brain."

Editor's note - the most likely reason for non-use of the tests is that the number of positive results would cause the export ban to be re-instated. This oversight by the EU will certainly not be corrected by MAFF!

23 Jul 99 - CJD - Warning of major CJD epidemic

By Roger Highfield, Science Editor

Telegraph ... Friday 23 July 1999

A warning that a major epidemic of new variant CJD remains a strong possibility is given today by a scientist at the forefront of research into mad cow and other spongiform diseases.

Prof John Collinge of St Mary's Hospital, London, a member of the Government's Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee, writes on "human BSE" in the The Lancet and concludes it is logical "many more cases must result" . He greets the recent optimism that the human BSE epidemic may be levelling out with caution, given that it has been only three years since new variant CJD was recognised.

Prof Collinge is pessimistic because he estimates the incubation time for the disease - the time between infection with BSE and the development of the devastating brain disease CJD - is probably a matter of decades rather than years. Studies of related spongiform diseases, such as kuru, suggest incubation periods of up to 40 years .

15 Jul 99 - CJD - Industry's 3 years in limbo

By David Brown, Agriculture Editor

Telegraph ... Thursday 15 July 1999

The European Commission imposed a global export ban on British beef on March 25, 1996 , five days after the Government statement that mad cow disease had been linked to a new variant of the fatal brain illness Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

In 1995, the last full trading year before the ban, Britain exported 246,000 tons of beef worth £520 million. A total of 470,000 calves worth £61 million were also exported. France was the biggest single customer, taking beef worth £179 million and calves worth £37 million.

In 1995, British households spent £1.8 million on beef. Last year, they spent £1.6 million.

Total value of the British beef market, including the hotel, restaurant and processing sectors, was £4.5 billion in 1995. It slumped to £3.1 billion in 1996 after the beef crisis broke. Last year it recovered to £4 billion.

Beef in shops and supermarkets is now cheaper than they were before the BSE crisis broke. According to retail prices monitored by the Meat and Livestock Commission, topside of beef cost consumers an average £2.81 a pound last month, compared with £2.92 a pound in June 1995. Sirloin prices last month averaged £5.44 a lb compared with £5.32 a lb four years ago. Braising steak cost £2.27 a lb last month compared with £2.36 four years ago. Premium mince cost £2.17 a lb last month compared with £2.15 four years ago.

More than 175,000 cattle in Britain have died from BSE since 1998 . More than 3.2 million cattle over 30 months of age have been slaughtered since May 1996 under emergency measures to reassure the EU about the safety of beef - a move which is now causing shortages of prime beef cattle.

Beef imports stood at 187,000 tons in 1996. Last year they rose to more than 214,000 tons. More than 100,000 tons came from the Republic of Ireland. The rest came from other EU and non-EU countries.

15 Jul 99 - CJD - Tough conditions on lifting of beef ban

By Toby Helm, EU Correspondent, in Brussels and David Brown

Telegraph ... Thursday 19 July 1999

The worldwide ban on exports of British beef will end on Aug 1 - almost three and a half years after it was imposed by the European Union at the height of the bovine spongiform encephalopathy crisis.

But even as Brussels announced the date for ending the blanket embargo yesterday, European Commission officials insisted their conditions for allowing resumption of overseas sales were "very restrictive".

Initial euphoria among Britain's farmers faded rapidly as it became clear that very little beef will be exported initially . Only one British abattoir felt it could make any money trying to restart an export trade, which was worth £520 million a year at its peak, under a scheme weighed down by Brussels red tape and restrictions . Calf exports, which remain suspended under the Brussels decision, were worth £61 million before the ban.

But Nick Brown, the Minister of Agriculture, welcomed the decision, saying: "The British beef industry has been kept out of world markets for far too long. This should give it a much-needed boost. We have worked hard to put in place all the safeguards that have been demanded. Beef farmers, slaughterers and traders have all been very patient and I am grateful for all they have done. Much credit is due to all those who have made the restart of exports possible."

But while the Government would help the industry to fight its way back into export markets, the task would "not be easy" and he could not provide extra funds to promote British beef. Britain's livestock sector had already received £220 million extra aid to help it to cope with the impact of the BSE crisis, he said.

The Brussels decision applies only to deboned meat from animals born after Aug 1, 1996 , the date on which Britain's ban on feeding meat-and-bone meal to animals became effective. The beef allowed for export must also come from animals over six months of age and under 30 months. Furthermore it must be handled by special slaughter houses and abattoirs dedicated to handling export beef only.

New health marks and a new sealing system must be also used for any beef that leaves British ports and airports. Gerard Kiely, a spokesman for Franz Fischler, the Brussels agriculture commissioner who applied the ban on March 22, 1996, said: "This is a very restrictive system."

The commission said it had decided to allow exports to restart as it was now sure Britain had systems in place to meet the tough health and safety requirements that other member states have insisted upon. Ben Gill, president of the National Farmers' Union said the move was "long overdue" and declared Aug 1 "National Beef Day".

Farm shops and farms across the country will open their gates and welcome the public to beef barbecues and special tastings to celebrate the return of British beef to world markets. Mr Gill said: "I am delighted by the decision but it is only the start of a long haul to restore confidence in British beef in overseas markets. This is the beginning of the end but it is by no means the end."

Anthony Gibson, the director of the NFU's South West region, described the decision as "the long overdue righting of an injustice rather than a cause for great celebration".

Although the beef ban is lifted from Aug 1, it may be the end of the month before any British beef is actually exported. Farmers have to give at least one month's notice of the animals they wish to have slaughtered to enable them to be checked. Then, after slaughter, the beef has to be properly hung and prepared.

The Meat and Livestock Commission gave a warning that recapturing lost markets would be a "long and slow process". It predicted overseas sales of just 5,000 tons this year, compared with exports of 246,000 tons in 1995. The MLC has about £2 million a year available to promote meat exports but some experts said yesterday that up to £30 million might be needed.

25 Jun 99 - CJD - Red wine seized by French in CJD alert

from Susan Bell in Paris

Times ... Friday 25 June 1999

Red but blood-free French health inspectors have seized more than 100,000 bottles of Rhône Valley wine amid fears that it might have been treated with powdered cattle blood , which has been banned in the European Union since 1997 after concern over mad cow disease.

As a government swoop on 14 vineyards in the Vaucluse and Bouches du Rhône region revealed that blood could still be being added illegally to wine as a purifying substance , one French table-wine exporter, Jean Pistonier, said that millions of bottles of wine containing ox blood could have been exported to Britain in the years after the ban.

Blood is traditionally used after vinification to clarify the wine by eliminating resin and suspended particles.

The Rhône Valley regional Wine and Spirits Inspection Office said that 480lb of purifying products based on cow's blood had been seized , with more than 100,000 bottles of suspect wine between June 7 and 14 in the region around Avignon.

Although the vineyards and wine wholesalers involved were located in areas that carry the renowned Côtes de Provence and Côtes du Rhône AOC or "appellation d'origine controlée" - the French label guaranteeing quality wines - three quarters of the impounded wine carried the lower quality VDQS table-wine label. However, the equivalent of 27,000 bottles of an AOC "natural sweet wine" was seized by inspectors.

Gérard Bedos, who heads the regional Consumer and Anti-Fraud Office in Marseilles, assured customers yesterday that the Côtes du Rhône and Côtes de Provence AOC wines were not involved. The impounded wine is being tested to determine whether it has been treated with ox blood.

Dried cow's blood had been used for centuries to purify wine until the European Union banned it as a precautionary measure in November 1997 after scientists found links between bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and the human brain disorder Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

Jamie Quiot, head of the National Institute of AOC wines, defended the use of such products. "They are not toxic at all. We only asked for their withdrawal to protect our image," he said.

The Rhône Valley Wine Co-operative also played down the scare, saying that it was astounded by the fuss over "a practice as old as the world, part of ancestral wine-making". It denounced what it described as "a psychosis" by wine inspectors "threatening the local economy".

Emmanuel Lerat, of the National Confederation of AOC Wine and Spirits Producers, said that the vineyards found using the ox blood were small producers using outdated methods such as egg white to purify wine. Such practices are increasingly being abandoned for more modern and efficient methods, notably using clay-based purifying substances such as bentonite.

The affair comes as France has suffered a succession of food scares involving BSE, dioxin-contaminated poultry products from Belgium, and allegations of illness caused by contaminated Coca-Cola products and French unpasteurised cheese.

Wine producers now fear that they will be next to suffer the economic consequences of customers' fears concerning the safety of their food.

Red but blood-free

Major British wine retailers are contacting their suppliers to ensure the wines they sell do not come from vineyards where dried cow's blood has been used illegally as a fining agent (Tim Jones writes).

Oddbins said it had none of the affected VDQS vins de qualité supérieur wines on its shelves. First Quench, whose outlets include Wine Rack, Bottoms Up, Threshers and Victoria Wine, said its VDQS wine was free of blood.

Tesco said it had banned the use of cows' blood as soon as it was aware of the scare. Sainsbury said none of its wine came from the Côtes du Rhône area, and Marks & Spencer said all its wine was free of animal material as a fining agent.

03 Jun 99 - CJD - BSE evidence may be kept secret

Staff Reporter

Telegraph ... Thursday 3 June 1999

Confidential evidence containing criticisms of the handling of the "mad cow disease" outbreak may not be made public for 30 years , investigators said yesterday (UK Correspondents note: so much for Tony Blair's commitment to full disclosure ).

The BSE inquiry, which began in March last year, has taken evidence from more than 300 witnesses and has published more than 400 statements from former ministers, scientists, health officials and the families of those who contracted and died from the human form of BSE, new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD).

But the inquiry, which is due to issue its final report by the end of March next year, is entering its second phase, one of "clarification, conflict and potential criticisms". The inquiry team said yesterday that letters had been sent to an unspecified number of people involved in the BSE crisis, setting out criticisms that they may face in the final report. The recipients have been asked to respond in writing and, although some replies are still pending, the inquiry is expected to call between 40 and 50 to give oral evidence at London-based hearings later this year.

An inquiry spokesman said yesterday that it was possible that some might give a reasonable explanation or admission of their actions and not be called upon, or wish, to give oral evidence. He said: "Some of these details may be published as part of the report or they may remain in the Public Record Office for another 30 years ."

It was also disclosed yesterday that some Government documents, which had not previously come to light, had now been released by the Ministry of Agriculture after a letter outlining criticisms the department may face.

02 Jun 99 - CJD - US bans blood donors from Britain

By Andrew Marshall and Charles Arthur

Times ... Wednesday 2 June 1999

American doctors are preparing to ban blood donations from people who have visited Britain for as little as six months , to guard against the spread of the human form of "mad cow disease", bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

The decision to stop the donations has already been made by experts advising the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) , who are now considering what criteria to use. They were expected to exclude only long-term visitors to Britain who would have been here during the 1980s, when many BSE-infected cattle were used for food.

Their fears are that visitors to Britain may have absorbed the BSE agent through eating contaminated food, and could then pass on "new variant" Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (v-CJD) by donating their blood. Potentially, scores of people could be infected by a single donation if it is pooled with others. Because there is no way to detect the BSE or v-CJD agent, thought to be a single protein, conventional blood tests and filtering are useless.

BSE has not been a big issue in the US: no cases of BSE have been officially recorded, nor any cases of v-CJD. But scare stories, and growing publicity such as that by the talk-show host Oprah Winfrey on the beef industry's practices, have pushed it up the agenda.

The authorities now clearly want to head off any crisis of confidence in blood supplies . Ending blood transfusions from people who have been to the UK for six months or more would cut the US blood supply by about 10 per cent.

In 1995 the FDA banned the use of blood products from people with "sporadic" CJD - the form of the disease with no known cause, which usually affects people over 60. But all forms of CJD apparently have a long incubation period in which the victim shows no symptoms: this can last decades before they show failing memory and co-ordination, and die within a couple of years.

In the UK, 40 people have so far died of v-CJD. The Department of Health said last night: "In this country we use leucodepletion, which removes the white blood cells, as a precautionary measure against this theoretical risk. The US's measures are up to their regulatory authorities."

A spokeswoman emphasised that the risk remains theoretical, with no recorded cases of any form of the disease being passed by blood products.

Last night evidence was presented to the FDA's Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies Advisory Committee about blood donors who have lived in Britain for various periods, to assess the risk. A study by the US Veterans' Affairs Department found that no one seems to have caught CJD from infected blood.

Abid Rahman, an epidemiologist with the Department of Veterans' Affairs Office of Public Health, said it appears there is only a "small, theoretical risk" of getting it that way. "It at least gives us some evidentiary basis for no transmission through blood so far."

Canadian Blood Services has already decided to refuse blood donations from people who have visited the UK , and has asked an expert committee to decide on the criteria. Because of the close historical ties between Canada and Britain, the decision could have a much more serious effect on Canadian blood supplies.

"The decision to defer donors has essentially been made," Graham Sher, vice-president of the blood services division, said last week. "It's a matter of what the criteria are that we will use to determine who should be deferred."

A survey found that 22 per cent of its donors had visited Britain since 1980.

30 May 99 - CJD - Children exposed to CJD infection risk from vaccines

By Antony Barnett, Public Affairs Editor

Guardian ... Sunday 30 may 1999

Potentially contamined stockpile of drugs may have been used until 1993, Government adviser reveals.

The Department of Health approved the use of thousands of human vaccines for diseases such as tetanus and whooping cough made with material likely to have come from BSE-infected cattle.

This was despite warnings in 1989 from one of the Government's key scientific advisers that injecting such material potentially posed 'the greatest risk' of transmitting BSE to humans. Parents have never been told their children may have been in danger.

Before the BSE scare in 1988, vaccines for diseases such as measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus and whooping cough used bovine serum taken from British cows.

When the scare broke, the Government asked Sir Richard Southwood, professor of zoology at Oxford University, to investigate the risk of infection from pharmaceutical products. Southwood was so concerned about the vaccines that he wrote three times to the Department of Health's Committee on the Safety of Medicines demanding 'urgent action'.

In 1989, the then-confidential Southwood committee report concluded that 'the greatest risk in theory would be from the injection of material derived from bovine brain or lymphoid tissue'. He later described the risk as 'moderately high'.

As a result, in 1989, the Committee on Safety of Medicines issued guidelines that vaccine materials should come from safe herds in countries with no reported cases of BSE. Yet this left a stockpile of vaccines already made using material from British cattle likely to have been infected. The vaccines had lifespans of up to five years and could have been used on children as recently as 1993.

Until now, the Department of Health has not disclosed what happened to the stockpile of vaccines . In a recent parliamentary answer, Health Minister Tessa Jowell merely confirmed they were not 'disposed of or discontinued'.

But Dr Richard Kimberlin, a BSE expert who acts as a consultant to drug companies and also advised the Committee on Safety of Medicines at the time of the scare, told The Observer: 'The risks associated with the stockpiled vaccines were not perceived great enough to have them destroyed... so yes, these continued to be used.' He said the stockpile would have amounted to 'thousands of doses'.

Speaking to The Observer this weekend, Southwood said: 'Studies clearly showed that the greatest risk of infection from BSE was not from eating foods but from injection. The highest risk was injecting into the brain, then there was injecting into the body and then through cuts or lacerations.'

A source from Lord Phillips's BSE inquiry, which last week announced that it would not be reporting until next March, said it was taking the issue of vaccinations 'very seriously'. New variant CJD - the human form of BSE - has claimed 40 victims so far, but no hard evidence has yet linked it to eating beef.

Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker is demanding that the Government reveal what happened to the vaccines after learning of Southwood's concerns in Private Eye. He said: 'This is the first time somebody has admitted these vaccines were used on the public. We now need to know what type of vaccines and how many people might be affected. The Government cannot continue to sweep this issue under the carpet.'

At the time of the scare, the largest vaccine producers in the UK were SmithKline Beecham, Evans Medevea and Pasteur Merieux MCD. Mike Watson, medical director of Pasteur Merieux, said: 'All our bovine materials are now sourced outside the UK. At the time of the BSE scare, we sourced some vaccines from the US and some from Spain, although some did come from the UK. But the risk of BSE transmitted in this way is practically zero.'

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: 'The Committee on the Safety of Medicines defined the risk to public health from using bovine material in medicinal products as remote and theoretical.

A judgement was made by the committee that existing supplies should not be withdrawn because, in their view, the risk to public health through loss of confidence in the vaccine programme was greater than the remote theoretical risk associated with the use of bovine materials in vaccine.' She said she could not give details of vaccine use because this information has only been collated centrally since 1992.